Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Koh Samui

Sam and I took a ferry the morning of the 20th to hop over to the next island over, Koh Samui, to begin our week long silent meditation retreat.  Took a taxi to The Icon, and then got picked up by the retreat staff and taken to a secluded oasis in the island hills.  Had a few initial conversations with other retreaters and was a little sad to think I wouldn’t be able to talk with them more the next week.  Took a tour of the property with the group and checked out our accommodations, which was a long room with many wooden boards, straw mats and a wooden pillow for each person.  Yeah…a wooden pillow.  That evening we started the silence and began to fall into our daily routine.
4:30am – Wake Up
5:00am – Morning Reading
5:15am – Sitting Meditation
5:45am – Yoga
7:00am – Sitting Mediation
7:30am – Breakfast
9:30am – Dhamma Talk
10:30am – Walking/Standing Meditation
11:00am – Sitting Meditation
11:30am – Lunch
2:00pm – Meditation Instruction and Sitting Meditation
3:00pm – Walking/Standing Meditation
3:30pm – Sitting Meditation
4:00pm – Walking/Standing Meditation
4:30pm – Chanting & Loving Kindness Meditation
5:30pm – Tea
7:30pm – Sitting Meditation
8:00pm – Group Walking Meditation
8:30pm – Sitting Meditation
9:00pm – Bedtime
9:30pm – Lights Out

The whole week blends together now, but overall I thought it was a really great experience.  The whole purpose of the week was to teach us about the belief in Buddhism to live completely in the present.  “Nothing whatsoever should be grasped at or clung to.”  In Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to be completely unattached from things, people, your body/emotions, etc. 
The first few days I was really engaged and the days went by quickly, and on day three the meditation and the talk from the retreat volunteer Pierre, really broke me down in the best kind of way.  He talked about forgiveness, of yourself and of others, and it was so powerful and related so well to my life.  I left the retreat with the reminder that forgiveness, along with gratitude, are two of the most important capabilities in one’s life.
Around day four I started to lose focus and spent the majority of my days daydreaming, which is exactly what you’re advised against because the goal is to always live in the present.  Each day was a struggle both physically and mentally, and through it my mood shifted frequently between extreme confusion and intense clarity.  The fact that we weren’t allowed to talk didn’t ease any concerns.
On the last full day of the retreat, they drove us to a beautiful beach where we all sat together and meditated.  They then told us we had an hour to roam around the beach, and at this point everyone decided the silence was broken.  We all stood by the water’s edge and a few even felt compelled to jump in with their clothes on.  Once back on the retreat grounds, we ended the night with the opportunity to share how we got to the retreat and what we learned from it.  Despite my discomfort with public speaking, I got up and shared my story.  After each person shared it seemed as it gave the next person courage to share their deeper stories.  One person shared his struggle with depression and suicide, another told us he’d recently found out he was HIV positive – it was a good reminder that everyone has their struggles in life and to try to be empathetic as you never know what others are going through.  
The morning of the 27th I woke up as usual, headed to the meditation hall, and this time took a seat at the head of hall to read the last mornings reading.  It was called “Chief Seattle’s Message” and it was a speech he’d given to his tribe in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century.
Our last breakfast I spent chatting with Pierre as I was so interested in his life and how he’d arrived at this meditation center to guide us all.  Turns out he was an economist in Canada with three failed marriages behind him, and a few years ago he’d left that life and moved to Thailand to practice Buddhism.  He encouraged me to keep meditation and mindfulness in my life.  I think the biggest thing I realized during this week was that my whole life I’ve been floating, just getting by being genetically blessed with some general intelligence and athleticism.  I’ve never really applied myself to anything or followed through with things I attend to accomplish.  This week, even though at times I wanted to leave, I stuck with it and that alone felt really rewarding.  I hope that when I go home, if nothing else, I live every day with a little more intention and determination than I had in the past.
Headed off into town and walked around until we found a place to stay.  Sam and I split a little beach bungalow at New Huts on Lamai Beach for $15.  Spent the day lying on the beach and fell asleep to the sound of the waves that were 30 feet outside our front door.

1 comment:

  1. Such a cool experience. Looking forward to hearing more when you come back!